SALT LAKE CITY SCHOOL BOARD BANS CLUBS AFTER REQUEST FOR GAY GROUP.
The Chess Club - gone. The Ski Club - no more. The same with Students Against Drunk Driving and Bible clubs.
Rather than let gay high school students form an organization, the city Board of Education voted to ban all nonacademic clubs.
"Everyone suffers because of the gays," complained Brett Shields, a 16-year-old at East High School and a member of the Beef Club, a social club that met last week to eat steaks and burgers and attend a "monster truck" rally.
The 4-3 vote by the Salt Lake City School Board late Tuesday was the latest in a bitter, statewide debate over a move by students to form a gay-straight student alliance at East High.
School board members said federal law and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave them only two options: allow all extracurricular clubs or eliminate them all.
The issue has reverberated from the classroom to the Capitol as Utah's conservative Republican-dominated Legislature scrambles for a way to ban gay clubs without closing down such student enterprises as the Beef Club, and without being accused of discriminating against homosexuals.
Roughly 85 percent of the 104 members of the Legislature are Mormon, as are more than 70 percent of their constituents. The church condemns homosexual acts and any sexual relationship outside marriage.
Some 30 service, ethnic or sports clubs at East High will be affected by the board's action, beginning with the 1996-97 school year. The ban also will apply to the district's two other high schools.
Board President Mary Jo Rasmussen, who opposed the ban, said it remained unclear whether the high schools' varsity teams would be eliminated, too.
Some students on Wednesday blamed the clubs' demise on about two dozen homosexual or bisexual students who had pressed for a gay club.
"Some people are glad they got rid of it, but disappointed they also got rid of everything," Shields said.
Supporters of the gay club criticized the board's solution.
"I think they're punishing all of the Salt Lake City School District because they're afraid of one club," said Holly Peterson, a West High student and sister of Kelli Peterson, founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance at East.